Rosenstein expected to leave Justice Dept.
Departure will create uncertainty about the oversight of Mueller’s Russia probe
WASHINGTON—Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, the most visible Justice Department protector of special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation and a frequent target of President Donald Trump’s wrath, is expected to leave his position soon after Trump’s nominee for attorney general is confirmed.
The departure creates uncertainty about the oversight of Mueller’s team as it enters what may be its final months of work. But the attorney general nominee, William Barr, moved quickly Wednesday to quell concerns that his arrival could endanger the probe, telling lawmakers during Capitol Hill visits ahead of his confirmation hearing that he has a high opinion of Mueller.
“He had absolutely no indication he was going to tell Bob Mueller what to do or how to do it,” said Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, the incoming chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which will question Barr next Tuesday.
If confirmed by the Republican-led Senate, Barr could be in place at the Justice Department by February. Rosenstein is expected to leave his position soon after that, though he is not being forced out, said a person familiar with the plans who was not authorized to discuss them on the record.
The departure is not surprising given that Rosenstein has been deputy for almost two years. It is common for new attorneys general to have their own deputies and Barr has told people close to him that he wanted his own No. 2.
It was unclear who might replace Rosenstein, though It’s unclear who will replace Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
Barr has some ideas for a selection, Graham said, without elaborating. The deputy position requires Senate confirmation.
Rosenstein’s departure is noteworthy given his appointment of Mueller and close supervision of his work. He’s also endured a tenuous relationship with Trump, who has repeatedly decried Rosenstein’s decision to appoint Mueller, and with congressional Republicans who accused him of withholding documents from them and not investigating aggressively enough what they contend was political bias within the FBI.